Hilarie: in favour of full maternity services in Huddersfield
Jan 17 2009 by Hilarie Stelfox, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
IT’S many years since I went through the unpleasantness that is childbirth.
In my case it was particularly unpleasant and there is no detail that I have forgotten. Firstborn, he with the unfeasibly large head, had to be dragged out with an appliance that resembled a cross between a vacuum cleaner (one of those cylinder models) and a colander; while Secondborn, who had decided to enter the world feet first, was delivered by Caesarian section, a messy one at that.
But in both cases I had my babies in a maternity unit, with midwives, doctors AND consultants available to deal with any eventuality.
I didn’t expect it to be any other way. Knowing that I was surrounded by a full complement of experienced staff made me feel secure and confident at what was an important time – possibly THE most important of times in a woman’s life.
Turn the clock forward 18 years and Huddersfield – which frequently lays claim to be the country’s largest town – no longer has a consultant-led maternity unit.
It’s still possible to have a baby in the town (and I understand that the new midwife-led Birth Centre is a lovely place) but, should anything go wrong, mothers and their unborn babies have to be transferred to Calderdale.
In theory this should be a short journey down the Elland bypass because the two hospitals are geographically close.
However, as one who regularly travels along the bypass, I know only too well that this route is a bottleneck for peak time traffic.
I’ve lost count of the occasions when I’ve seen an ambulance, siren wailing, weaving slowly in and out of stationary vehicles.
Even without heavy traffic it is a journey too far for someone in labour and fearful for the safety of their child.
And now a baby has died and its parents believe that this journey was to blame for their loss.
They’ve launched a campaign to reinstate a consultant-led unit at Huddersfield – and I’m right behind them, as were the thousands who protested last year.
Sadly, I don’t see their campaign being any more successful now than the massive public outcry was then.
Sometimes the voice of just one can be a force for change, at other times the groundswell of public opinion is ignored.
I’m certainly glad that Firstborn arrived in 1990 when both local hospitals still had their own fully functional maternity units, because his arrival in the world was dramatic enough.